Sunday, April 20, 2014

farewell talk

I've had a lot of requests from people that weren't able to make it to my farewell to post my talk here, so here it is! Obviously, this isn't exactly what I said, but it's more or less my talk :)

Good morning brothers and sisters! I am so excited to have the opportunity to speak to you all today.
When I was younger, Easter morning was just as exciting as Christmas morning. My siblings and I would wake up early and sneak all over the house to scope out where the Easter bunny had hidden the eggs so we would have a head start when our parents finally let us start the egg hunt. After our egg hunt, we would all put on our fancy new Easter clothes and head to church, where we usually had some kind of special treat or lesson in primary to celebrate Easter. After church was our Easter dinner, which in my opinion was better than Christmas dinner.  In all, I kind of just viewed it as another day to get lots of candy and pretty clothes. I knew the story of why we celebrate Easter, but it never really occurred to me why it was as important as all the adults in my life seemed to think it was.
As I’ve grown older, the more commercial aspects of Easter have kind of fallen to the wayside. Sure, it’s still fun to see the colorful eggs hidden all over my house, and it’s still awesome to have a big dinner with my entire family, but that’s not what really matters anymore. What matters is that I have a day set aside to remember my Savior’s life and His sacrifice for me, and to ponder on why that sacrifice is so important to my life.
When we talk about “the Savior’s sacrifice for us,” we are not only talking about his crucifixion. We are speaking of Christ’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane as well. In that garden, Christ took upon him the sins, pain, and afflictions of every single person that has ever lived, will ever live, or is currently living on this earth.
Why in the world did He need go through that for us? I think Elder Holland answered that question best when he said, “The Atonement of Jesus Christ was indispensable because of the separating transgression, or Fall, of Adam, which brought two kinds of death into the world when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Physical death brought the separation of the spirit from the body, and spiritual death brought the estrangement of both the spirit and the body from God. As a result of the Fall, all persons born into mortality would suffer these two kinds of death.”
Kay. So let’s back up and break that down a little bit. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden a long, long time ago. They were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan tempted Eve to eat it, which she did, and then she convinced Adam to eat the fruit. Because they ate the fruit, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. When they were cast out, they became susceptible to physical death. They were also separated from the presence of God, which is known as spiritual death. Being susceptible to these two different kinds of death made them mortal—which meant they could have children. Those children were also mortal, and those children’s children, and those children’s children. Because of the fall of Adam, we are all mortal, which means we can die both a spiritual and physical death.
I don’t know about you guys, but I sure wouldn’t like those deaths to be permanent. Heavenly Father didn’t want them to be permanent either, which is where Christ’s atonement comes in. 
After the Last Supper, Christ journeyed to the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. He left them when they got to the Garden, and went off by himself to pray to his Father. During this prayer, he took upon himself the sins of all of mankind. So great was the pain and agony of this act that blood flowed from every pore of his body.  Jesus asked his Father, “Father, if thou be willing, move this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” An angel was sent to strengthen him, and Christ was able to finish his prayer.
When Christ took upon himself all of my sins and all of your sins, he overcame spiritual death. He made it possible for us to repent when we make mistakes, which means that even though we aren’t perfect and we all goof up every once in a while, those mistakes aren’t permanent. Instead, we can work through our mistakes and be forgiven of them. This process of repentance would have been impossible without Christ’s atonement, and we would all be forced to experience a permanent spiritual death.
Holland said, “This infinite Atonement of Christ was possible because He was the only sinless man ever to live on this earth and therefore was not subject to the spiritual death resulting from sin,  He was the Only Begotten of the Father and therefore possessed the attributes of godhood that gave Him power over physical death and  He was apparently the only one sufficiently humble and willing to be foreordained to that service.”
Kay, so that took care of the spiritual aspect of the Fall of Adam. However, we were all still mortal, and we still had no way of overcoming that part of the Fall. No worries though, Christ took care of that for us too!
We’ve heard the story of Christ’s crucifixion time and time again. We know that after he finished praying in the Garden, Judas betrayed him by turning him over to Pilate’s soldiers. He was then taken to Pilate, and Pilate sentenced him to crucifixion.  He was beat, scorned, and mocked. He was forced to carry his own cross to the scene of his death.  And we know that during this awful treatment, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was so perfect that even when he was being treated like a terrible criminal, his only thought was for the salvation of his afflicters.
 After Christ died, he was laid to rest in a tomb. Three days later, Mary Magdelene came to visit the tomb of the Savior, but instead found an open tomb and an angel. Shocked, she asked the angel where Christ had been taken. The angel replied, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” Christ had been resurrected. He had overcome physical death, and in doing so, paved the way for each and every one of us to do the same.
Thomas S. Monson once said of these events, “Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place—the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.”
The last few weeks, I’ve had a scripture playing on repeat in my head. 1 Corinthians 15:22 reads “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
I’ve heard that scripture time and time again as I’ve grown up, but I don’t think I ever appreciated how powerful that verse is until these last few weeks. It was mentioned in a talk during General Conference, and I started thinking about it a lot. It’s such a short verse, but it says so much about the importance of the events surrounding Easter. I love how blunt Paul was when he wrote that all men die. That’s the part that grabbed my attention—the hey, without Christ we’d all die with no hope of ever living again. But what I love most about the verse are the words “In Christ shall all be made alive.” Those words are beautiful to me. They testify that because of the Savior’s atonement, I can be made whole and achieve eternal life. They show me that through Christ, all things are possible. Because if he gave us a way to overcome the bands of death, surely he will provide a way for us to accomplish everything else too.
Okay, so why is Christ’s atonement so important in our lives? We can find the answer by studying the Plan of Salvation.
As a missionary, I’ll be spending  a lot of time in the book Preach my Gospel. Chapter 3 of Preach my Gospel gives an outline of each lesson we are to teach to investigators. The first lesson is on the restoration. But after we talk about the restoration, the very next thing we are to teach is the Plan of Salvation. This alone is a testimony to me of how important the Plan of Salvation is in our lives, and in our entire mission here on earth.
Before we came to earth, we lived with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in a premortal existence. While we were there, Heavenly Father presented his plan to us, which we all completely understood and accepted. His plan was for us all to come to this earth to receive physical bodies, be taught, and be tested so that we might learn and grow and progress spiritually. We were given the gift of agency, which meant that we would be able to make choices for ourselves. However, none of us are perfect, and Heavenly Father knew we would need some help if we were ever to be able to return to him. That’s where the Savior’s atonement comes in. He came to earth, the only perfect person that has ever lived, to provide an example of how we should live. He knew that his example alone wouldn’t be enough though, so he atoned for our sins and made it possible for us to repent when we make mistakes. He made it possible for us to have a clean slate when we mess up. This is so important, because we need to be clean and pure to return to live with our father in heaven.
We read in 3 Nephi 27 verse 19, “And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of their sins, and their faithfulness to the end.”
The entire goal of the plan of salvation is to be able to return to the celestial kingdom and live with our Father in Heaven again, thereby achieving eternal life. Christ’s atonement made that possible for us. 
Christ’s atonement for our sins matters because we can repent when we make a mistake, and become perfect through Christ. His resurrection matters because by being resurrected, we can receive immortal bodies.  When we repent of all of our sins and receive immortality, we will be able to have eternal life.
Without the atonement, the resurrection, and all other events surrounding Easter, God’s plan for all of us would not be possible. As we read in John Chapter 14 verse 6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me.” This scripture has always been one of my absolute favorites. Even though it’s just a few lines long, I see it as summarizing the entire plan of salvation into one little verse. Jesus begins by essentially saying that he was sent to Earth to give all of us an example of how to live our lives. He then testifies of himself, and his father’s church. He finishes by saying that without his atonement and subsequent resurrection, none of us would ever be able to return to live with our heavenly father.
Moses 1:39 reads, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” To achieve immortality and eternal life…. these two things are Heavenly Father’s goals for us. However, eternal life is not only significant because it means we get to spend forever in the presence of our God. It is also significant to us in this church because we know it means we can spend forever with our families.
The topic Bishop asked me to incorporate into my talk was “families are central to God’s plan.” I thought this topic was so perfect to speak on for Easter, because if the events we remember on Easter had never taken place, eternal families would not be possible.
Heavenly Father designed His plan so that no one ever has to walk alone.  We were each sent here to be a part of a family.
I love a quote by Christoffel Golden Jr. He said, “seen in its true light, the doctrine of the father and the son is the doctrine of the eternal family. Every human being has existed previously as a spirit child with Heavenly Parents, with Christ being the firstborn of the Father in this Heavenly Family.”
Not all families are the same, not all families are perfect, but regardless of what our individual family situation is, Heavenly Father’s plan for us is universal. He wants us to be sealed in the Temple to become an eternal family. For the Strength of Youth reads, “being part of a family is a great blessing. Not all families are the same, but each is important in Heavenly Father’s plan.”
Because of the temple, we can be sealed to our families for time and all eternity. That means that one of the many, many blessings of Christ’s resurrection and atonement is that we can live forever with those we love the most.
I’ve kept a somewhat consistent journal since I was pretty young, and as I’ve been packing up for my mission, I’ve come across a lot of things I didn’t remember keeping. One of these was my journal from fourth grade. My little sister Alyssa was born when I was in fourth grade, and this is what I wrote the day she was born: “I have a new little sister! Her name is Alyssa, and she is very little.  I’m excited to play with her when she is bigger. I hope she doesn’t bother me like Trevor and Tanner do sometimes. It’s okay though, because I love them still. Daddy talked to us about families last week before Alyssa was born. We talked about how we are all sealed together because mom and dad got sealed in the temple before we were born. That means that me and trevor and tanner and alyssa get to be brothers and sisters forever!” Even as a ten year old, I understood some of the blessings of being a part of an eternal family. I knew that my new baby sister, my brothers, and I would be together even after this mortal life, and I knew that my parents would be there too. I was so excited when every single one of my siblings was born, and I can’t even imagine what life would be like without them around. I am so grateful that Christ gave us all the opportunity to receive immortal bodies, and experience eternal life, and that we are given the amazing blessing of having families with us throughout eternity. I don’t know about all of you, but I most certainly wouldn’t want to have eternal life if I experienced it all on my own.
The events that we remember on Easter are important because they not only made eternal life possible, but they made eternal families possible.  I see a quote all the time on pinterest, and I just love it. It defines a missionary as “someone who leaves their family for a short while, so others can be with their families for eternity.”
The whole goal of a mission is to get the people you teach to the temple so they can partake of the blessings of eternal life and eternal families. Even though leaving my family for a year and a half is going to be hard, I know that I need to  because there are families in Jamaica that need to be able to have the same blessings and knowledge of eternal families that I do. Families are central to God’s plan, and I hope to do whatever I can to bring that message to the people in Jamaica.
For as long as I can remember, my favorite hymn has been I Believe In Christ. The words of verse 3 are so powerful—“I believe in Christ, he ransoms me. From Satan’s grasp he sets me free. And I shall live with joy and love in his eternal courts above.” Christ’s atonement allows us to aspire higher than this earthly life, and gives us a way out of the grasp of Satan. He provided a way for us to return to Heavenly Father and live for all eternity with those we love.
I hope that today, and every day, we will ponder the events of Easter and keep a prayer of gratitude in our hearts for our Savior Jesus Christ’s atonement. Easter is a time to remember Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. It is a time to remember the pain and suffering he went through in the Garden of Gethsemane when he took upon him the sins of every single one of us, and made it possible for us to repent. It is a time to be thankful that we have someone that loves us so much that he was willing to go through more pain than we can ever comprehend, so that we could partake in the blessings of repentance, eternal life, and eternal families.
I know that this church is true. I wouldn’t be going on a mission if I didn’t have a sure and steadfast faith in my savior Jesus Christ and His gospel. Looking back on my journals, I realized that a year ago today, I was at my senior prom. If you would have come up to me at that dance and told me that in exactly a year I would be giving a farewell talk for a mission to Jamaica, I probably would have laughed in your face. However, over the last year, things changed, and I realized that my plan for my life was not God’s plan for my life. I realized that I needed to start listening to his guidance, because He is all knowing. So, here I am, and I know that this is exactly where I need to be.

I know Joseph Smith was called of God to restore His true church in the latter-days. I know that we have a living prophet here on earth today, and that he receives revelation directly from the Lord to lead and guide the members of this church. I know that by keeping the commandments and enduring to the end, each and every one of us can obtain eternal life. I know Christ lives. I know he atoned for my sins and the sins of the world, and I know that he died on that cross so we can receive immortal, perfect bodies and live with our father in heaven again. I feel my savior’s love every single day, and I know that He will never leave me alone, or guide me astray. The Book of Mormon is true. I love that book more than anything, and I would never want to live my life without the knowledge contained in its pages. I am so grateful for the family I have been given, and I am more grateful than words can express for the knowledge that they will be my family forever. I am so grateful that I have been called to serve my Lord and the people of Jamaica, and I pray every day that I might be led to those that are ready to hear the truth, and prepare a way for even more people to one day receive the blessings of the temple.  I testify that this is the only true church upon the earth today, and that it is the same church Christ led during his time here on earth. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind as to the truth of this doctrine. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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